4.11.2009

Suffering Good


In the spirit of Holy Week, I am linking here to an old post of mine on the topic of suffering. Lest we either gloss over Jesus' suffering (resurrection is so much more pleasant to meditate on than crucifixion), deify the suffering itself (i.e. the vivid images from Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ), or paint it in purely transactional terms (he necessarily suffered as payment for our sins), I want to call your attention to the good in the suffering itself. Not as an unavoidable consequence of reconciling a sinful mankind to a holy God ("however unpleasant, this was what had to be done"), but as itself a glorious expression of divinity and redemption ("The Lord was pleased to crush him, putting him to grief" - Isaiah 53:10).

Let us not trivialize the very real pain Jesus endured during Holy Week. Even as he knew this was his reason to live - to die - he asked for relief amidst unimaginable physical pain, spiritual attack, and emotional abuse. And yet God chose this path for His Son to glorify Him, because of and through and not in spite of this terrible anguish (Philippians 2:8-11). And God chooses difficult paths for us as well - Jesus' suffering dignifies rather than excuses us from our own suffering (1 Peter 4:1). We too, because of one whose suffering was good and accomplished good, can know that whatever suffering we endure for His sake can be good and can accomplish good.

"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right." - 1 Peter 4:12-19
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